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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Overture and Incidental Music, Op. 61
Arranged for piano
(Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel [1845])

Gift of Susan Morse Hilles, in memory of William Inglis Morse and Susan Ensign Morse, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In 1826, Mendelssohn composed a concert overture inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was only seventeen years old at the time, but the overture is indisputably a masterpiece. In 1843, he returned to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, composing incidental music for a Berlin production of the play. Although he was twice the age he had been in 1826, Mendelssohn had no trouble recapturing the style of his youthful overture in his newly composed music. The incidental music was designed for a specific production, and today it is rarely performed in its entirety, but a suite consisting of the Overture and three movements from the incidental music—the Scherzo, the Nocturne, and the Wedding March—has long been part of the standard orchestral repertoire. The edition shown here includes all of these, along with three other movements that are less well known.

The Wedding March’s popularity is not confined to the concert hall; it has been performed in millions of actual weddings, so it is universally recognized, even by people who have never heard of its composer. It is customarily paired with the wedding march from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, with Wagner played at the bride’s entrance, and Mendelssohn at the close of the ceremony. This combination is a strange twist of fate, because Wagner’s anti-Semitic writings did so much to disparage Mendelssohn’s reputation.